Print predominates for reliability; the value of slow news

Slow news – what a great experiment. For two months Farhad Manjoo, a New York Times reporter, relied only on print newspapers for news.

His conclusion: not so much that newspapers were great, but that social was appalling.

Here’s an example: The Parkland, Florida school shooting happened during Manjoo’s experiment. He said he knew plenty about it – but he hadn’t had to deal with false stories declaring the shooter was a part of ISIS, an anarchist or one of many shooters. Those – and many other false versions of the story – had been debunked by the time it went to print.

Slow news proponent Farhad Manjoo

Slow news fan Farhad Manjoo

Describing the experiement in his State of the Art column in the Business Day section of The Times he said, “Not only had I spent less time with the story than if I had followed along as it unfolded online, I was better informed, too. Because I had avoided the innocent mistakes — and the more malicious misdirection — that had pervaded the first hours after the shooting, my first experience of the news was an accurate account of the actual events of the day.”

In January Manjoo disconnected from all his social networks and instead took home delivery of three newspapers – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The San Francisco Chronicle (his local paper). He also subscribed to The Economist, which is weekly.

(Just for context, and because I was wondering, Manjoo describes his age as “nearly 40”.)

The results? Manjoo says he was less anxious, feels he’s better and more widely informed, he’s read more books and he was more attentive to his family.

Remember author Michael Pollan’s advice about eating a few years ago? Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Manjoo constructed his version: Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.

I love it.

Get news

He says he struggled with this first edict. He had liked seeing info on his screen, he found newspaper pages unwieldy when in transit and they’re messy. Oh, and the print is small. (I like that he said that!)

He couldn’t get as many publications (for example the print version of The Washington Post is not available in California) and they’re pricey – he paid $81 a month for his subscription the The Times alone.

Not too quickly

Technology is fast. Real life is slow. It takes a while for the facts to emerge and for professional writers to make sense of them. The news after the Boston Marathon bombing was a notorious example of conspiracy theories abounding.

Avoid social

Social can lead us into the trap of existing in a walled garden – living surrounded only by people and opinions with which we agree.

I thought this was a great idea and it serves as a timely warning to us all.

Manjoo’s tips:

  • turn off news notifications
  • choose a reliable, news app that offers depth over breaking news and read it once a day.

 

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